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What Is the Book of Life?


A listener named Julie emails the show and asks about the Book of Life. She explains that it’s been discussed a few times in her apologetics class saying, “I have heard that if your name is not written in it, you’re not going to Heaven. Also, once your name is written in it, it can’t be erased. What is the Book of Life and can you explain the significance of it?”

Father Dave explains: “It is a biblical term, and it is used in Judaism as well. In the Hebrew Scriptures, it is sometimes called the Book of God. … The Book of Life, I would say, would probably be referred to a little more frequently by our Christian friends, more than we would hear it in Catholic circles. The only time we hear that reference in the New Testament is in the Book of Revelation. … Suffice it to say, while we don’t offhandedly dismiss anything that we see in the Book of Revelation, it uses metaphoric and symbolic references. There are not a lot of things that we are taking super literally in the Book of Revelation.”

“Is there an actual book with pages that God or somebody else has written my name, David Peter Thomas Aquinas Dwyer, CSP? And once someone wrote it in there, I’m definitely going to Heaven? That does not fit consistently with the rest of Catholic belief that is certainly rooted in Scripture. But we believe that the Holy Spirit has continued to enable us to understand and clarify and perceive better over the last 2,000 years since these Scriptures were finished being written.”

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“To that second question,” Father Dave continues, “Once it’s written there it can’t be erased and you’re definitely in Heaven, there are plenty of Christians of other traditions who would say once you’ve been ‘saved’ there’s no undoing that and that there is nothing you can do in the rest of your life to change that. We would not take that approach in the Catholic Church. We believe in mortal sin, meaning, something that we actually do that could completely cut ourselves off from God and the body of Christ, that we could potentially have the Wite-Out on the Book of Life. We would put the Book of Life in the category of things that help us to understand the fact that yes, there will be people who are welcomed into eternity with God. But along with many other things that some Christians would interpret literally, that we would not in the same way. Some will say that there is an actual book. Somebody didn’t invent that. People are drawing on good faith. But we can’t pull out one line with a yellow highlighter and say, ‘This is how Heaven works.’“ (Original Air 9-13-18)